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Match Analysis

Bumrah vs de Villiers, an IPL battle for the ages

In a game that went into a Super Over, both players showed exactly why they are so highly rated

Saurabh Somani
Jasprit Bumrah and AB de Villiers have had some excellent clashes in the IPL, Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2020, Dubai, September 29, 2020

Jasprit Bumrah and AB de Villiers have had some excellent clashes in the IPL  •  BCCI

It was 2017. Jasprit Bumrah was suitably abashed when reminded of the incident from 2014, staring at the floor and shaking his head while saying, "Yes, I know… even now people tell me, 'How could you do that?' I don't know what I was thinking. We were under pressure at that point and I don't know why, anger just came out. I'm normally not like that."
In IPL 2014, Mumbai Indians were playing Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were batting, and the Royal Challengers needed 72 to win in the last eight overs, a required rate that was less than what they were going at, having motored to 116 for 2 in 12 overs. Bumrah came on for his third over, slanted one into de Villiers who was moving across, and took out leg-stump. And then he told the departing batsman where he could go, not very politely.
Bumrah was not then the supreme machine he has become across all formats. He wasn't even close to an India call-up, having played eight first-class matches, nine List A games and 17 T20s before that match. De Villiers was established as a batting maestro, equally at home against red ball or white, in 20 overs, 50 overs, or across sessions. Who was this upstart who dared 'disrespect' a legend?
All the evidence from Bumrah's now substantial career points to that not being 'disrespect' as much as an outburst by a 20-year-old who had had been pitchforked into the limelight, and was still learning how to deal with it. Which is why, three years later, in a hotel room in Nagpur during a Ranji Trophy semi-final, the man who was now a capped international still had an embarrassed smile and a shake of the head when asked about the incident.
He couldn't have known it in 2014 - he might have thought fleetingly of it in 2017 - but the contest whose first installment began with a mouth-off, would evolve into one of his more enduring challenges in the IPL.
Bumrah didn't bowl to de Villiers in his debut IPL season in 2013, but the two have faced off regularly since. Bumrah in fact, has bowled more to de Villiers than he has to any other batsman in the IPL, save Kohli. De Villiers is also the only man with two entries in a fairly exclusive list: most runs taken off Bumrah in any T20 match. Nobody else makes it twice in the top six, but de Villiers is there with two entries, having taken 27 runs off Bumrah twice: on Monday and back in IPL 2015.
De Villiers overall record against him is pretty good, with 98 runs and two dismissals, at a strike rate of 144.11. That figure was boosted by the way de Villiers tore into Bumrah on Monday, carting 27 runs off eight balls. Until then, in all IPLs, de Villiers' strike rate against Bumrah was just 118.33.
But even in their battle during the Royal Challengers' Super Over victory against Mumbai, it was not a one-way triumph for the batsman. De Villiers bossed the contest during regulation play, but in the Super Over, Bumrah didn't come off second best. His team lost, but that was because he was defending a paltry seven runs - and he still stretched it to the last ball.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Mumbai coach, likened it to a boxing bout.
"AB and Boom is always going to be a great tussle," Jayawardene said after the match. "I think they went at each other, it's a little bit like a boxing game, but we probably didn't have enough runs for Boom to defend."
In regulation play, de Villiers was masterful. Quick off the blocks, he was already fluently hitting the ball when Bumrah came back at the death, and de Villiers engineered a course correction in their head-to-head match-up. A four and two sixes came from the 17th over, and the 19th brought another four and a six, the boundary peppered from extra cover to deep square leg.
Overall, the deliveries that had been most effective from Bumrah to de Villiers were length and short of a length outside off. On the day, Bumrah couldn't find the right length to hit, even though he kept his line around off stump. But with de Villiers already moving well, a short ball outside off was as likely to be swatted to midwicket as crashed through cover. Round 1 went to the batsman.
The Super Over though, found Bumrah with his radar back. Against any other batsman, he might have succeeded too. But against de Villiers, merely bowling what you want to is not enough. Throughout the over, he had fine leg up. The plan seemed clear: yorkers, or their closest equivalents, outside off.
The thing with a batsman like de Villiers though, is that you cannot just bowl to plan. Sometimes you have to bluff. Slipping in two successive short balls was part of that bluff. The first one was a snorter and nearly got him a wicket, but de Villiers successfully overturned the caught-behind decision on review. Surely, he wouldn't try that again? Maybe Bumrah figured that's exactly what de Villiers would think, and would not expect another short one. Ergo, another short ball might be a good idea. There was plenty right with the thinking, except the batsman at the other end. De Villiers is so beautifully balanced at the crease, his centre of gravity might well be in his feet. And his freakishly quick eye means he has more time than most to adjust. So even though he wasn't expecting a short one, he could essay a pull shot. He wasn't in control of it, but he didn't need to be. He just needed to clear short fine leg.
Bumrah's last ball to de Villiers was an inch-perfect yorker tailing into him. De Villiers still got some bat on it, and took a single. Round 2 was drawn.
De Villiers walked off the winner, but Bumrah wasn't defeated. Round 3 beckons.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo